Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sonic Colors (Wii) Review

For nearly a decade, Sonic games have continued to diminish in quali--I'm going to shut up. It's been said too many times, but here's a surprise: Sonic Colors could, arguably, be the best 3D Sonic game ever. Does that mean it's exceptionally brilliant? No. But compared to a consistent trend of mediocrity, it hails as the greatest in its respective series. And note, I wrote "could" because, despite its genre, Sonic Colors is not exactly 3D. In fact, it's almost entirely 2D, only with a fresh variety of new features, clever platforming, and eye-popping visuals to boot. That said, with positives come negatives: cringe-inducing dialogue, wonky physics, cheap hazards, overly simplistic boss battles, and lackluster co-op.

Sonic Colors is set in an interstellar amusement park, supposedly created by Eggman as an act of redemption. Needless to say, Sonic and Tails' suspicions lead them to the park, where they come across a strange species of aliens called "wisps," discover Eggman's true diabolical intentions, and attempt to save the day. Despite the typical plot present, the tone in the game is lightened to the point where the story feels like a Saturday morning cartoon. That is, a cartoon with clich├ęs and jokes you'd expect from a '80s-'90s show orientated for five year olds. It's an arduous task to describe just how bad Sonic's dialogue is, but it may be even more difficult to express my disdain for the new voice over Sonic has been given, which has amplified his quirkiness and cockiness to the next level. That said, Tails' voice is much better fitting, and Eggman is as lovable as ever. Thankfully, the story isn't the main emphasis of the game.

The most prominent aspect of Sonic Colors is, obviously, the gameplay. With its roots deriving from Sonic Unleashed, it certainly feels like the daytime stages in that game. However, do not be fooled, as the game deviates drastically from its predecessor due to its level designs. For one, Sonic Colors is almost entirely 2D, with only a few 3D segments sprinkled onto a majority of levels. During these brief parts, Sonic will either be pretty much automated, or the player will have to execute quick steps or drifts. When the game decides to give the player full control during the 3D sections, Sonic will move like a racing car with its wheels popped, so, excluding the cosmetic side of things, most will probably want to stick to 2D.

In the 2D perspective, Sonic will have to go through myriad platforms, use wisps, and even solve puzzles; Sonic Colors emphasizes on platforming over speed, unlike Sonic Unleashed. This isn't to say players won't get the fast-paced action they crave, but the game is certainly more of a platformer than a 1-player racing game, and the speed sometimes tends to get killed the minute Sonic embarks onto a 2D segment--not a bad thing! As Sonic blazes through platforms, the awkward physics will also become apparent to gamers; gravity itself doesn't seem to want Sonic to leap into the air fluently. Luckily, a double jump has been implemented to execute jumps more precisely. Indeed, you will be relying entirely on the double jump to perform the simplest feats. This isn't exactly detrimental to the overall experience, but it can have a small learning curve. Later levels will also contain unforeseen cheap traps and hazards, though nowhere near as much as Sonic Unleashed contained. Also, developers decided to be less sadistic by adding warning symbols that appear before blazing into a bottomless pit.

To compliment the 2D gameplay, Sonic Colors introduces wisps, which are essentially power-ups that allow Sonic to either progress or reach alternate routes in the levels. For example, the Yellow Drill wisp can be used to burrow the ground, find rings, and access underground areas, while the Orange Rocket allows Sonic to soar to the sky and land on platforms above. Other wisps play a pivotal role in the actual platforming, such as the Blue Cube wisp, which influences platforms around Sonic--though this didn't necessarily have to come in the form of a power-up. White Boost wisps allow Sonic to perform the boost present in Sonic Rush and Sonic Unleashed. Unfortunately, many level designs tend to discourage that type of super speed until they shift to 3D parts, which as mentioned, aren't very long; with a simple boost, players will find themselves quickly bypassing these brief segments, enjoying them for less than anticipated. While not mandatory 100% of the time, the wisps give the game substance, and will probably be used frequently by players. Without them, the game would present a rather bland or even generic experience. That's not to say they're perfectly executed, however, as some abilities may be hard to control, such as the Purple Frenzy wisp in a 3D environment.

On the side of the main gameplay, the game also includes bosses and special stages. Out of seven bosses, three are repeated, and only two are somewhat challenging. In other words, they provide an underwhelming experience. As for special stages, the game presents a "Sonic simulator" as an extra world. It contains a series of hideous levels that try to replicate worlds from the original Sonic games. In these stages, players can also choose to play co-op with a friend. However, no one will probably bother since the levels themselves are short, and the co-op system is terrible and unfitting.

After finishing the game, which will only take about 8 hours, players can revisit worlds to collect red rings and chaos emeralds for a very special reward--a reward so special that it strips the game of all its substance, and serves only to worsen the game's mechanics, ironically. For competitive gamers, a ranking system is present to provide incentives to go back and improve their scores. Cutscenes can also be accessed in the options menu if you want to watc--I can't write this with a straight face.

Sonic Colors contains some of the most stunning graphics on the Wii. As mentioned, Sonic will be traversing through a multitude of wacky-themed levels, such as a world filled with giant desserts, an asteroid world, and an aquatic one where Sonic can actually go underwater--yes, you don't have to fear submerging yourself into a bottomless pit after not holding your boost. Despite this, the levels offer little to immerse the player into the actual environments, and it will be easy to ignore the fact that you're going around a donut-shaped loop, as that's a staple feature in all Sonic games. During the 2D segments, platforms in the foreground look bulky and randomly situated on top of a blank void, while the background seems static, for the most part, and the camera is zoomed out, almost giving the impression of playing a stage created with a gamer-friendly level creator, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl's. Of course, that's not to say they look bad, but it can appear awkward as opposed to traditional 2D Sonic levels.

Sonic Colors' soundtrack is nothing spectacular, but it does deliver; while it contains some memorable tracks, like Planet Wisp Act 1 and Aquarium Park Act 1, the rest can be bland, forgettable, or downright redundant. The sound quality is loud and grand. Unfortunately, the loud music mutes many PA announcements Eggman gives during the course of the stages, which is a shame because some of it is actually pretty amusing.

Overall, Sonic Colors is not without flaws. Of course, that goes without saying. The 3D segments are practically non-existent, and when the transitions to that perspective arrive, players will have little or no control of Sonic, or find themselves boosting right into another 2D segment; the physics are a bit off, forcing players to make mandatory use of the double jump to make it to nearby platforms; a few cheap traps toward the end of the game will prove aggravating; the boost is almost superfluous; the bosses are far too simplistic and repeated; the co-op isn't any good; and the dialogue is dreadful. However, the game still provides an engaging experience through the use of wisps to uncover new paths, has several clever platforming sections that make use of the power-ups, consists of plenty to do after completing it, contains some of the best visuals on the Wii, and has a few catchy tunes. Sonic Colors is the best 3D Sonic game in many years. While not a must-get game, it's certainly fun for all ages, especially a younger audience.

Score: 7.5/10.

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